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Equally at home in senior centers and hip-hop concerts, Kwame Kilpatrick, 34, inspired Detroit voters with his energy and determination when he rode into office three years ago. But a cherry red Lincoln Navigator has put a big dent in his reputation. After weeks of denying it, the mayor admitted in January that the city paid $24,995 to lease just such a car for his wife.
That outlay showed what Alan Ehrenhalt, executive editor of Governing Magazine, calls "a tin ear for symbolism," given that Detroit's $230 million budget deficit has prompted the mayor to eliminate 3,000 city positions and end 24-hour bus service. It has not helped that Kilpatrick left undiminished his 21-person security detail (the mayor of Chicago, a city with three times the population, has 15 guards). When Gary Brown, the deputy chief of police internal affairs, opened an investigation into misconduct by the security team, Kilpatrick fired him, ostensibly because Brown did not get his chief's approval for the probe.
By Jyoti Thottam.
Reported by Amanda Bower/New York, Joseph R. Szczesny/Detroit and David Thigpen/Chicago
John Street / Philadelphia
John Street came into office in 2000 with an ambitious agenda to improve Philadelphia's worst neighborhoods, and even his critics agree he has made considerable progress. But, says Otis White, of the public-policy consulting firm Civic Strategies, "whatever his grand visions have been, he will not be remembered for them. He will be remembered for the corruption [around him]."
There has been no evidence that Street, 61, himself is corrupt, but federal prosecutors say the mayor's close friend and fund raiser, Ron White, partially took control of city contracting and turned the process into a naked shakedown for donations to Street's 2003 re-election campaign. White died before going to trial, but former city treasurer Cory Kemp, a member of Street's administration, and four other defendants await a jury's verdict. The scandals have turned Street into a lame duck a year early. "The city is in a kind of suspended animation as long as the trials go on," says former Philadelphia Daily News editor Zack Stalberg.
By Sean Scully/Philadelphia.
With reporting by Amanda Bower/New